• Kids have the ability to see the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary, writes Nicole Azzopardi. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Whether it’s rocks and leaves naturally shaped into love hearts, or the first to spot the arc of a rainbow, our children are the ones with eyes well trained to see awe.
By
Nicole Azzopardi

2 Sep 2020 - 9:04 AM  UPDATED 2 Sep 2020 - 9:04 AM

Driving down a dusty country lane as the sun sets a deep red, I spot a kangaroo to my right.

"Did you see that, kids?" I shout from the driver's seat, hitting the brakes, not taking my eyes off its grey tail now bounding across a nearby paddock.

"I see it!" squeals our youngest in delight.

"Look, there are four, no, five, no six!"

We sit for a few quiet moments. Our little family of four, under a vast vista of pinks, reds and oranges, looking at the wild sight of the land we know so well and taking in that special kind of feeling that comes over us.

A feeling nature reserves for only its keenest observers - the immense and incredible feeling of awe.

We sit for a few quiet moments. Our little family of four, under a vast vista of pinks, reds and oranges, looking at the wild sight of the land we know so well and taking in that special kind of feeling that comes over us.

An emotional experience difficult to describe, awe is that often fleeting moment that boggles the mind and reminds you that you will never fully comprehend the vast mystery and sublime beauty that is the world you live in.

And whether it's seeing a spectacular sunrise while camping, noticing the jewel-like rain droplets on a winter's bare tree branch, or marvelling at the quiet enormity of a forest; creating opportunities for our children to experience awe is one of the best self-care tools I feel I can offer them during this time of technological dependency and global uncertainty.

In fact, research has revealed that the experiences of an emotion such as awe increases the tendency in an individual to help someone in distress, can cause a boost in life satisfaction, create more feelings of community connection, and even reduce symptoms of depression.

According to Professor of psychology Dacher Keltner, who studies individual’s narratives of awe in his lab at UC Berkeley, people report experiences of awe when seeing a majestic mountain range, or touching the hand of a famous rock star.

But even more frequently, people report feelings of awe arising when experiencing the little things – like seeing a stranger giving food to a homeless person or a certain way their child laughs.

Professor Keltner believes that awe is particularly elicited by people’s experiences of nature and of art but interestingly, they also experience awe though becoming aware of impressive individuals and feats, including acts of great expertise or morality.

For many, the feeling of awe has historically been connected with religious rites or spirituality.

And while that’s true for me too, now that I’m a parent, I’m realising that the experience of awe is even further heightened because, more often than not, I experience it with our children.

What’s more, these little humans are not just good at awe - they are the masters of discovering it in the day to day.

They have the ability to see the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.

What’s more, these little people are not just good at awe - they are the masters of discovering it in the day to day.

Whether it’s rocks and leaves naturally shaped into love hearts, or the first to spot the arc of a rainbow, our children are the ones with eyes well trained to see awe.

They lead us to hover over the tiniest of frogs, to gaze at the almost invisible silk thread of a caterpillar transforming itself into a shiny chrysalis hanging from a leaf above, or pulling us by the hand to peer into a bush to watch blackbird’s eggs hatch one by one - tiny people in awe of even tinier almost featherless creatures; eyes closed and breathing softly in their warm nest.

Albert Einstein put it this way: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”

His words ring in my mind as I tuck away a delicate daisy chain made by our eldest daughter, pausing yet again to marvel at this life we are living – on this vast and beautiful planet.

Here I was thinking I was the one teaching my children to experience awe but it turns out – they are the ones teaching me.

Nicole Azzopardi is a freelance writer.

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